Saturday, February 26, 2022

Mix of cancer, Covid put people of color at great risk of complications, hospitalizations, death

Docs say people in low-income communities are subject to advanced cancers because of pandemic-caused delays in diagnosis and treatment.

According to a recent story in The Washington Post by Laurie McGinley,  the combination of Covid and cancer is a menacing mix for those people of color.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention worries, the article states, expect the dangerous combo to worsen "with the pandemic grinding on," with stats showing African Americans and Hispanics being "about twice as likely as White people to die of Covid" and Black cancer patients being "particularly high risk for complications and hospitalizations."

Black people, the Post story says, "had lower survival rates for many cancers compared with White people even before pandemic."

Dr. Kashyap Patel

McGinley's piece quotes oncologist Kashyap Patel, chief executive of Carolina Blood and Cancer Care Associates, as saying that "Covid put cancer and health-care disparities on steroids. I have never seen this many people presenting at Stage 3 and 4," the worst possible stages.

 Jennifer S. Haas, a primary care doc at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, was also quoted: "People have been trying to ignore symptoms for a year because they didn't want to come in."

The result? An unusually high number of advanced stomach cancers and esophageal malignancies "over the past several months."

Why are people of color so susceptible? Because of, the story notes, "higher rates of underlying conditions such as diabetes or hypertension; a lack of health insurance or access to a primary-care physician; and jobs that can cause health problems."

Says Haas, it's a particularly bad situation "if you work in an environment without air purification or filtration."  

According to McGinley's story, doctors say "many of those most acutely affected are women, whose family responsibilities and financial stress make it difficult to focus on their own health."

Debra Patt, executive vice president of Texas Oncology and a breast cancer specialist in Austin, elaborates in the article: "They have sacrificed themselves to deal with the needs of the family: "Are my children getting schooling, how do I take care of the older adults in my life, how do I manage everything?"

Long after the pandemic subsides, she worries, some patients will be struggling with advanced cancer. "The effects of this will go on for years," she's quoted as saying.

Perhaps the lesson from the pandemic is that "maybe we shouldn't expect everyone to come to doctors' offices," the story again quotes Haas, who reportedly says that more at-home testing would increase screening.

More information about the problems medical delays can cause may be found in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers. 

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